Sports

TJ’s Cratsenberg swims toward state title

Thomas Jefferson freshman Amber Cratsenberg is unbeaten this season for the Raiders in the 50- and 100-freestyle. Cratsenberg will lead TJ into the swimming postseason, which kicks off today at the South Puget Sound League Championships at Curtis High School.   - Casey Olson/The Mirror
Thomas Jefferson freshman Amber Cratsenberg is unbeaten this season for the Raiders in the 50- and 100-freestyle. Cratsenberg will lead TJ into the swimming postseason, which kicks off today at the South Puget Sound League Championships at Curtis High School.
— image credit: Casey Olson/The Mirror

Amber Cratsenberg spends a lot of time in the water.

The Thomas Jefferson freshman freestyler spends close to five hours in the swimming pool every day after school. Following practice for the Raider swim team, Cratsenberg takes an hour break before putting her body through another session with her club team, Valley Aquatics Swim Team.

“I use that hour break to do homework,” Cratsenberg said with a laugh.

But all the pool work is paying huge dividends for Cratsenberg. The TJ freshman enters the postseason as one of the swimmers to beat in the 50- and 100-yard freestyle events at the 2008 Girls Swimming and Diving State Championship Meet at the Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center, Nov. 13-15. Cratsenberg is unbeaten this season in those two events and also posted automatic state-qualifying times in the 200 and 500 freestyles.

Cratsenberg and the rest of the swimmers from the South Puget Sound League will get the postseason kicked off today at the SPSL Championship Meet at Curtis High School. The meet will include all the swimming programs in the SPSL and will lead into next weekend’s West Central District Meet at Rogers.

Cratsenberg’s best shot at capturing an individual state title comes in the 50 free.

Last year, Redmond High School junior Maureen Cardwell won the Class 4A state championship in a time of 24.20 in the final at the King County Aquatic Center. Cratsenberg has swam under that time numerous times and has a personal-best time of 24.12, which she set at the 2008 Pacific Northwest Section Championships in March as a 13-year-old.

Cratsenberg also holds the Pacific Northwest all-time record in the 50 free in the 10 and under age group (26.53), as well as the 11-12 group (24.34). She also swam a 53.29 100 free as a 12 year old to set the Pacific Northwest record in that event as well.

“I think a time in the low 24s might win the 50 at state,” Cratsenberg said. “Maybe even the high 23s. My goal is to win a state title all four years at TJ and then go to college and swim.”

Cratsenberg fell in love with the sport of swimming when she took her first lesson as a 4-year-old at the Marine Hills pool in Federal Way. She started swimming competitively two years later, as a 6-year-old.

“I just love swimming because I get to see all of my friends and get to talk to them a lot,” Cratsenberg said. “It’s a lot better than running. I really don’t like running because you sweat a lot. Swimming is good, because you don’t sweat in the water.”

Cratsenberg leads a strong list of swimmers from the Federal Way school district into today’s South Puget Sound League Swimming and Diving Meet at Curtis High School.

The Todd Beamer Titans enter the meet as the defending champions and return a bulk of the swimmers that led the Titans to the 2007 title. Beamer rolled through the SPSL South with an unbeaten record to snare their second-straight division title.

The Titans bring back Eryn Murphy, Jessica Soria and Jenelle Freeborn, who all swam individual events at last year’s state championship meet.

Decatur will be led by state veterans Briley Boggs (senior) and Kelsey Crowder (sophomore) and Federal Way returns sophomore freestyler Kaia Barth. Cratsenberg’s teammate, sophomore Savannah Coe, also swam at the 2007 state meet.

Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565, sports@fedwaymirror.com

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